I love the word “ruched.” And I especially love it when it’s used in context with ribbon. Ruched ribbon – the two words just sound right together!
What does ruched mean? It means gathered, frilled, or pleated.
Ruched silk ribbon looks pretty neat, and it’s a great way to add some dimension and texture to the surface of an embroidery project.
On this Christmas ornament I’m currently working on, I added a little ring of ruched silk ribbon in pink. If it were done in green – perhaps speckled with tiny red seed beads – it would make an absolutely adorable Christmas wreath!
So, here are the instructions on how to create a ruched silk ribbon wreath or ring. You can adapt the approach to lines, squiggles, waves, whatever!
Ahhhhh! There it is! A ruffly, pink, ruched ribbon!
Ruched, by the way, is pronounced roosht – just in case you’re wondering. Like swooshed. A ruche swoosh. A swoosh of ruche. Swooshes of ruches.
Dr. Seuss could have so much fun with this.
My silk ribbon for this bit on the ornament is pretty tightly gathered. You can vary the degree of gathering, from loosely gathered to tightly gathered, to anywhere in between. This is one of those areas of embroidery where experimentation is a good idea, to get just the look you want.
I like the tightly gathered ribbon when working in a ring, because it’s much easier to control the ribbon while tacking it into a ring…
… and because the frilly gathers hide a multitude of stitchy indiscretions.
I’m working with a 4mm wide silk ribbon (by River Silks), a #9 crewel needle, and a piece of fine twisted silk (Soie 100/3) in a (sort of) matching color. You can use any fine thread – a sewing thread works great, too. I wouldn’t necessarily use regular floss – it’s thicker, softer, and not as strong as a fine twisted silk or even a regular sewing thread.
Because I wasn’t sure how much ribbon it would take to ruche my way around the ring (I don’t think ruche is a verb, but I’m thinking about making it one), I didn’t cut the ribbon from the spool. I started on the end of the ribbon with a little straight stitch forward, followed by a backstitch over the straight stitch to lock the silk thread.
I left a significant tail (3 or 4 inches) on the end of the silk thread, hanging off the end of the ribbon. This tail comes in handy when it’s time to end the ring.
Once the thread is started it’s just a matter of working a running stitch down the middle of the ribbon. You can pick up several stitches on the needle, then push the ribbon down onto the thread, then pick up a few more stitches, and push the ribbon onto the thread.
Once you have a significant amount of ribbon on the thread, pull the thread to gather the ribbon, pushing the ribbon back towards its beginning.
Occasionally, test the length of the ruched ribbon, and keep adding more gathers until you have enough ruched ribbon, gathered to the degree you want it gathered, to cover the design line you’re trying to cover.
Once you’ve gathered enough silk ribbon to cover the length of your design line (in this case, a circle), you’re ready to attach the ribbon to the fabric.
I began the attachment process here by taking the needle and working thread straight down into the fabric where I wanted to start the ring.
This leaves the rest of the ruffled ribbon dangling off the front of the fabric. It’s a lot easier to manipulate this way, so that you get a good even finish when the beginning and end of the circle meet up.
Don’t end the thread – you’ll use the same thread to tack the ruffled ribbon down around the ring.
Now it’s just a matter of attaching the ribbon around the ring.
This isn’t done exactly by couching in the proper sense of couching. You could couch directly over the ruffled ribbon and wiggle your couching stitches down into the frills of the ribbon, but…
It just doesn’t look as good. The couching stitches tend to crush the ruched ribbon, and the dent can be visible at every couching stitch. And we shouldn’t want that!
Instead, bring your needle and thread to the front of the fabric on your design line where you want to attach the ribbon. You’ll want to attach around the circle about every eighth to quarter of an inch, to create a nice smooth circle.
Above, you can see the working thread brought to the front of the fabric, with the ruched ribbon pulled out of the way.
Take your needle and thread through the base of the ruched ribbon, picking up just some of the ribbon inside the gathers. If you stick the needle into the bunch of ribbon just at the lower edge, you’ll pick up enough of the ribbon to secure it.
Pull the working thread through the ribbon and take the needle down into the design line right where you came up.
As long as you’re starting the stitch on that line and ending it there, and passing through the width of the ribbon ruffle, you’ll keep the bunched ribbon in the right place, on the design line.
Eventually, you’ll come around to where you started.
Take the tail of the thread (remember we left a three or four inch tail at the beginning of the ribbon?) and thread a needle with it, and take it to the back of the fabric, snuggled right up to where you first attached the ring. End this thread on the back by whipping it under the backs of the stitches on the back of the fabric.
You’ll still have one working thread on the back – the one that you attached the ribbon ring with.
Snip any excess silk ribbon close up to the ring, and carefully tuck any surplus under the ruffled ring and add some little tacking stitches to hold it. End your gathering thread on the back of the fabric and cut it.
Now you can work your way around the wreath with the eye end of the needle and gently manipulate the ribbon anywhere it needs adjusting.
And that’s it! You have a gathered, frilly, silk ribbon wreath! Perty, ain’t it?
The only part that takes any effort here is the running stitch down the center of the ribbon, and it doesn’t really take effort. It just takes time. You have to gather quite a length of ribbon compared to the small length of the line you’re covering.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the Christmas ornament series coming up in a couple days!
In the meantime, any questions, comments, suggestions, rebukes, better methods, points that need clarifying – or any other chit chat? Leave a comment below! I’m always in a chatty mood on Mondays, so I’m up for anything!